Speaker: Lars Ulrik Thom
Embassy of Ireland
3, Ritan Dong Lu
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In China’s last dynasty, Beijing was a segregated city. Walls and gates kept people of different ethnicity apart. Even inside the Chinese courtyard houses, the family hierarchy was set in stone. Women lived in the back, tied to their homes not only by tradition but by their tiny bound feet. But the abdication of the 6-year-old Emperor Puyi in 1912 set in motion a wave of change that washed away these old rules. Republican women had freedom and opportunity as never before. Newspapers, cigarette packets and movies inspired a whole new idea of what it meant to be a woman. Driven by both curiosity and poverty, women left the courtyards and entered the worlds of work, commerce and entertainment. To the astonishment of Republican bystanders, women could now be seen doing ‘men’s work’ in the dusty streets of the capital.
At the centre of this transformation was the old commercial district of Dashilan, where modern storefronts, newspaper houses, brothels and movie theatres sprung up, sowing new ideas and becoming important vehicles of change.
Lars Ulrik Thom is the Co-founder of Beijing Postcards, a company that specialises in propagating Beijing History. Lars Ulrik has lived in China for almost 20 years and studied Chinese at Copenhagen University. Beijing Postcards collects historical photos and maps of Beijing and runs an oral history project in the Dashilan area of Beijing. In the same area,
Beijing Postcards have recently opened a gallery space called "The Public History Space". The ambition of Beijing Postcards is to create a platform where people can relate to the ever-changing environment of the capital. Because how can you learn from history if memory is lost?